Photo: Scene from protests in Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir, last Friday.
By Mike Talavera
Last Friday, tens of thousands took to the streets in Srinagar, capital of occupied Jammu and Kashmir, to defy a week-long crackdown by the old Indian state.
A few days before, the reactionary Indian government, led by fascist Prime Minister Nerenda Modi, issued a decree officially revoking Article 370 of the country’s constitution, removing the special governance status of the semi-autonomous state of Kashmir. Now, Indian nationals will be able to buy property in the Kashmir Valley, marking an intensification of national oppression.
Shortly before this law passed, the Indian military doubled down on its occupation of Kashmir, one of the most militarized areas in the world, bringing in thousands more troops to close schools, cut off telecommunications, and prohibit public meetings. Hundreds of Kashmiri officials have been arrested or disappeared in the past week, and a strict curfew has been enforced.
Since then, Indian troops have escalated surveillance and repression of the Kashmiri people, firing pellet guns and tear gas at the masses who retaliated by hurling back rocks. Reports illustrate that children and teenagers in particular seem to be targets of state repression.
Part of the Modi administration’s motivation for the crackdown is to distract the masses of India from its own internal problems by beating the war drums against Pakistan. India’s supposedly rapid economic growth has come under scrutiny since the government changed how it calculates GDP in 2015, and unemployment is the highest it’s been in decades. Politically, the government has resorted to more fascist methods, using law enforcement and its military to target activists, burn and rob villages, stage “fake” encounters with the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA), and conduct mass detentions and arrests.
To steer attention away from these problems and anti-people crimes, Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made a campaign promise earlier this year to “take action” in Kashmir, which has been highly contested between India and Pakistan since the breakup of “British” India in 1947.
The past decade has witnessed incredible state repression in Kashmir, starting in 2010 when a coalition of Kashmiri groups went on strike to demand the demilitarization of the Kashmir Valley. The masses disobeyed curfews and other laws, destroyed property and vehicles, and rebelled against the police, who retaliated by firing live ammunition and killing over 100 people.
More recently, this February one man from Kashmir who had been repeatedly harassed and arrested by Indian police without ever being charged with anything took out his rage on an Indian police convoy, ramming his explosive-rigged car into one of the convoy buses, killing 40 and injuring scores more.
US President Donald Trump has stated that he intends to “mitigate” the conflict between the two countries, infuriating Indian officials when he met with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in late July. Trump wants to enlist Pakistan’s help in pushing for a ceasefire in Afghanistan, where the Taliban and other forces have escalated their insurgency against US occupation and the puppet government. Pakistan also fears losing the piece of Kashmir which it occupies and oppresses.
It is in the interests of US imperialism, the world’s sole superpower, to “stabilize” South Asia and the Middle East until it has another opportunity to intervene in the region. The recent attack on Kashmir, which goes against the US plans to superficially ease tensions, demonstrates that the old Indian state’s need to give the people a “foreign enemy” temporarily outweighs its subservience to US imperialism.
The limited gains of this escalation in Kashmir will lead to more problems for the Modi administration in the long-run, as the rebelling masses in Kashmir have already shown this week. India and Pakistan’s squabble over the territory in pursuit of their own narrow nationalist interests and US imperialism’s meddling in the dispute will only serve to stoke the fire of Kashmir’s national liberation struggle.